ARTIST BIO: Canadian Contemporary Paper Artist Col Mitchell is a Fine Art Maker working from the Heart of Muskoka. Through her original technique of pen & ink on sculpted paper she fluidly melds texture with intricately layered lines of colour, creating magical impressions of the beauty and mystery of nature and wildlife.
Based on her childhood experiences in Algonquin Park Col Mitchell’s art reflects the process of viewing and experiencing nature as she remembers it: That random pendulum of intensity and tranquility, the shape, colour, line, and texture she associates with nature’s wonders, beauty and complexity coloured by an adult’s remembrance of childhood imagination and fancy. When expressed through her distinctive technique these reimaginings resolve into works as individual as a fingerprint of those experiences.
An award winning contemporary paper artist Mitchell’s work has featured in Times Square NYC; the 2010 G8/G20 Summit Media Centre, Toronto; online & print magazines; art publications; popular art blogs; and juried global exhibitions.
ARTIST STATEMENT: It was early in January of 2008 when serendipity brought me to my current practice of pen and ink on sculpted paper. Inspiration struck at a paper on canvas workshop spurring me to deviate from the instruction to deliberately form a recognizable subject, a tree. Fortuitously, a week previously I had purchased a medium new to me (acrylic inks), untried, but perfectly suited to work with this new surface I had made — a tree formed out of a single medium weight sheet with a delicate and judicious application of tissue. Had I chose to use the paper in another manner I am certain I would not have made the pivotal discovery of material interaction, which influences the outcome of every piece I make. This fortunate happenstance cracked my creative world wide open with possibilities involving paper.
Enchanted, I began experimenting with subject matter — from Heath Ledger’s iconic Joker face to a seven foot tall tree trunk, and a curated 8 foot by 6 foot twelve paneled themed exhibition piece. I explored, and continue to explore, my limitations working with pen nibs and their gravity dependant dipping inks, and how different papers influenced the outcome. It wasn’t long before I realized I needed to identify which elements of my exploration could define a technique.
Within my technique it was four years before I could form my smallest bird of three inches, and five years before I attempted a furred animal — a piece that went on to win an award.
In my fifth year I also began exploring how I fit into this dance of mediums. For every piece, before the pen and ink work begins, the interaction of the materials is a source of inspiration, but what also pushes my pen? The final pen and ink stage is especially meditative, and it is there that I found my answers.
It is my memories and my experiences I reach for when art making. Specifically, the summers I spent immersed in the magnificent natural surroundings of Algonquin Park, where the too few amenities of the cottage my grandfather built on Smoke Lake in 1931 meant nature was a strong presence, very much “in my face.” No electricity, and therefore no television, Gameboys or iPhones meant imagination was King. My siblings and I planned our entertainment, invented games played on both land and water. We spent time still and enveloped in lush expansive views, or crouched in intense contemplation of tiny life forms or fauna; tickled or bitten by insects, entranced or startled by sound, buffeted or soothed by wind, warmed or burned by sun.
My art reflects my process of viewing and experiencing nature as I remember it, that random pendulum of intensity and tranquility, the shape, colour, line, and texture I associate with nature’s wonders, beauty and complexity . . . coloured by an adult’s remembrance of childhood imagination and fancy.